Welcome to this week's issue of AI: The Washington Report, a joint undertaking of Mintz and its government affairs affiliate, ML Strategies.

The accelerating advances in artificial intelligence (“AI”) and the practical, legal, and policy issues AI creates have exponentially increased the federal government’s interest in AI and its implications. In these weekly reports, we hope to keep our clients and friends abreast of that Washington-focused set of potential legislative, executive, and regulatory activities.

This issue covers the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC” or “Commission”) Voice Cloning Challenge. Our initial takeaways are:

  1. On November 16, 2023, the FTC announced the Voice Cloning Challenge to encourage the creation of policies, practices, and technologies to prevent or detect the abuse of AI voice cloning tools.
  2. The Commission will be accepting submissions from January 2 to January 12, 2024. The winner of the challenge will receive a $25,000 prize. Organizations that have 10 or more people can only win Recognition Awards that do not come with cash prizes.
  3. The Voice Cloning Challenge can be seen as part of the FTC’s broader effort to be recognized as a leading regulator of AI.

FTC Offers $25,000 Prize for Solutions to Address the Abuse of AI Voice Cloning Technologies

On November 16, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced the Voice Cloning Challenge “to encourage the development of multidisciplinary approaches — from products to policies to procedures — aimed at protecting consumers from AI-enabled voice cloning harms, such as fraud and the broader misuse of biometric data and creative content.”

The FTC will be accepting submissions from January 2 to January 12, 2024. The winner of the challenge will receive a $25,000 prize.

Eligibility Criteria for the Voice Cloning Challenge

To be considered, challenge submissions must address at least one of the following issues:

  1. Prevention or authentication. The submission must provide a means to limit the use of voice cloning software by unauthorized users.
  2. Real-time detection or monitoring. The submission must provide a way to detect the use of voice cloning technology.
  3. Post-use evaluation. The submission must provide a means to determine whether an audio clip contains cloned voices.

Submissions must contain an abstract, no more than one page in length, that provides an overview of the submission. A detailed explanation outlining the proposed intervention, no more than 10 pages in length, must also be included in the submission. Finally, applicants may submit a video demonstrating how their proposed intervention would function.

Submissions will be judged on three main criteria:

  1. Administrability and feasibility to execute. How well would the intervention proposed in the submission work in practice? What would it take to execute the proposed intervention?
  2. Increased company responsibility, reduced consumer burden. Would the intervention apportion liability and responsibility primarily on consumers or companies? The FTC is interested in proposals that “ensure that the assignment of liability and responsibility matches the resources, information, and power” of the actors implicated.
  3. Resilience. Is the proposed intervention resilient to technological and economic changes? Can the approach be sustained as voice cloning technology evolves? Does the proposed approach take into consideration any safety issues the intervention itself may introduce?

The winner of the competition will receive a $25,000 prize. A runner-up will receive $4,000. Up to three honorable mentions, one for each relevant issue listed above, will receive $2,000 each. Participants that are businesses or organizations of 10 or more people can only win Recognition Awards that do not come with cash prizes.

FTC Interest in AI Voice Cloning Abuse

As discussed in previous newsletters, the FTC, under the leadership of Chair Khan, has been determined to have an active role in regulating the emerging AI industry. Drawing on its existing authority to regulate unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices, the FTC has staked a claim to police misleading or false claims with regard to AI, deceptive business practices involving AI, and anti-competitive conduct by firms offering AI products and services.

In its drive to establish itself as a premier AI regulator, the FTC has homed in on the abuse of AI voice cloning as an issue of particular concern. A March 2023 blog post warns consumers that scammers could “use AI to clone the voice of your loved one.” Through business guidance posts, the FTC has warned “companies that misleading consumers via doppelgängers…could result — and in fact have resulted — in FTC enforcement actions.”

During the Trump administration in January 2020, the FTC held a workshop on voice cloning technologies. At this workshop, then FTC Commissioner (and now Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) Rohit Chopra asserted that “new laws, licensing, export controls, and oversight” may be needed to protect Americans from the misuse of voice cloning technologies.

The FTC’s Voice Cloning Challenge may be seen not only as an attempt to address the growing threat of AI-powered fraud but also as part of the Commission’s broader effort to be recognized as a leading AI regulator.